The trailer for The Rum Diary almost enticed me book a ticket to Puerto Rico.
Such a splendid, free-spirited adventure was always going to inspire me. I could not get to the cinema fast enough to see the famed writer and cult hero, Hunter S. Thompson’s, 1960s journalistic exploits on a sexy Caribbean island.
The minute-and-a-half teaser was full of heaving parties and white-sand beaches; the women were beautiful and, of course, the rum was ubiquitous.
And I do enjoy rum, but never in Australia. I have never pandered to the local Bundaberg-style. The Nepalese brew, strangely, was delightful. I was certain the Puerto Rican liquid would be impressive.
I was lucky enough to land Gold Class tickets for the Rum Diary. Sitting in those recliners with the big screen is fairly awesome. Reclining the chair is not so simple.
My plus-one and I spent a good five minutes searching around for the controls like a gorilla after a banana. I knew the chair must recline, the savvy folk across the aisle were almost horizontal, but the controls eluded us.
I tried pulling up the foot rest and pushing exuberantly on the back rest. It wouldn’t budge. Not an inch.
Finally, a whisper. “They’re electric. Controls on the side.” Ah, so Event Cinemas have moved beyond the wooden lever on the side that was so easy to pull.
Chair antics aside, the movie was even better than the trailer.
The Rum Diary, as my plus-one put it “is a bit of a thinking movie.”
It was not the party-party-sex-on-the-beautiful-beach affair I had anticipated after watching the trailer. Well it is still that, but there is so much more going on.
To give you some background, the young and talented journalist Paul Kemp goes to Puerto Rico to work on a newspaper. He’s also a novelist, although he laments at not being able to find his “voice.”
On the island they drink a whole lot of rum, have some interesting run-ins with the locals and, of course, Kemp falls in love with an unsuitable woman.
Although slow-moving, the movie has all the ingredients: action, love, thought, scandal, violence, sex and a generous pouring of rum.
The cock-fighting scenes, while brutal, are fascinating and provide an interesting cultural insight.
Johnny Depp, of course, plays the enigmatic Kemp with characteristic individuality.
As a writer, Kemp’s search for his “voice” strongly resonated with me.
Throughout the film I noticed the little plot twists that were impacting the character. The emotions, played so mysteriously by Depp – “what is he thinking about what’s going on,” is a question I was constantly asking – are what finally allowed Kemp to write.
There is a whole lot of sh*t that goes down in Puerto Rico on Kemp’s watch. In one way the film romanticises the rum-fuelled exploits, but in another it raises serious questions about the impact of the West on places such as Puerto Rico.
Kemp’s participation in the events in the film and his reaction to them defined his writing style.
So, aside from being an entertaining flick, it is a thinking movie.
I’ve been thinking about my writing style, about what inspires me to write and what my “voice” will be. Or, indeed, what it already is.
Much like Kemp, I believe finding my style is a journey. I have no idea where it will end, but let’s hope there is plenty of rum along the way.